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FDA Report Says Agency Cannot Do Its Job


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates most of the food sold in the United States, as well as all drugs, human vaccines and medical devices. Many countries look to the FDA for guidance on food and medicine. Yet a new report from the FDA's own advisers says the agency is failing at its job. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.

The report says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is understaffed and underfunded. For years, critics have said the agency is failing. But now, for the first time, the agency admits it is failing and that American lives are at risk. The report also says there are so few inspectors that the agency is unable to protect the nation's food supply.

Bill Hubbard once held a high position at the FDA. He recalls, "When I came to the FDA in the early 1970s, we were doing 35,000 food inspections a year. This year, the agency will be doing 6,000."

The agency's computer system tracks hazardous foods and drugs. The report says the system is antiquated.

"Imagine having an e-mail system that is so old they have to bring technicians out of retirement because current technicians have never seen equipment that old," said Hubbard.

The report says that many employees do not have computers. Inspectors still write urgent reports by hand that often get lost. Without proper technology, the agency cannot keep up with developments in new technologies or track the possible side effects of drugs or procedures.

The report says the world of drug discovery and development has changed dramatically, but the FDA's evaluation methods are about the same as they were 50 years ago

The report places the blame on Congress for consistently cutting the agency's budget, while asking it to assume additional responsibilities. Representative Rosa DeLauro puts the blame back on the FDA. She says, "I, for one, am not going to provide funds to an agency that has no management structure in place, doesn't have any idea of how to utilize the funds that the Congress is providing to them."

But the report says the Food and Drug Administration cannot improve its science, prepare for the future or protect American consumers without significant additional funding.

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